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Cell Phones: Basic Specifications

Raza Khan

© Raza Khan 2006

Cell phones are more popular now compared to their wired brethren and have become an absolute necessity for many people. They come in uncountable shapes and sizes, each carrying its own set of features and weaknesses. This article discusses some of those features and weaknesses and makes some recommendations.
Cell phones are a common sight these days and they are surely increasing in number. They have become very popular and almost every person, rich or poor, has one or more. Day by day new features are being added to cell phones with one of the most successful feature being the camera. It’s not hard to choose a cell phone; there are so many of them available that one can usually find the perfect match. But there are some basic features of almost every mobile phone and there are also some additional features. Some of them are discussed here.

Form Factor

Mobile phones come in many different form factors. There are the common candybar-type phones, there are clamshells (those phones which have to be opened to be used and are in the form of two blocks joined together by a single hinge on the edges.) These phones are more popularly known as ‘flip’ phones because they flip open. Slider phones are also available; these are those phones in which two plates are joined in such a way that one slides over and hides the other (usually the keypad.) There are also some less popular factors such as the swivel form factor introduced by Sony Ericsson. Another form factor is when a cover is removed to reveal the keypad of the phone.

Operating Frequency

There are many different frequencies at which GSM phones can operate. These are the four major ones: 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz. The United States and Canada use 850 MHz as well as 1900 MHz. The UK, however, supports all except 850 MHz. Mobile phones are also made to support these different networks so a phone designed for use in America won’t usually work in the UK. However, some phones are quad-band phones which means that they support all four brands and can be used anywhere in the world (where there is a GSM network!)

Battery Life

Battery life varies with almost every cell phone. As time has passed, batteries for cell phones have become smaller, thinner, lighter and importantly, more efficient. Many different types of batteries are available but except for their size and weight, the types matter little.


Mobile phones also have varying memory sizes. This means that only a limited amount of content can be stored. This content includes the call register (Missed Calls, Diverted Calls, Received Calls, and Dialed Numbers), phonebook contacts and other media (games, ringtones etc.). However, some mobile phones also support memory expansion which means one can have endless memory by enlarging it with memory cards. Nowadays, memory cards are easily available in the market. By using these there are virtually no limitations as far as storage is concerned.

Weight and Size

Mobile phones, of course, differ in weight and size. Usually, the larger and heavier the phone, the more the features it holds. This is exhibited by the Sony Ericsson P910i and the Nokia 9500, two ultra-featured phones with the size of PDA’s (quite big!). Customers usually don’t care about the size and weight but it is important because the lighter and smaller the phone, the easy it is to use. Some phones are too small, such as the Panasonic GD55, and customers with fat fingers may have trouble using them.


Accessories are also very helpful if used with mobile phones. Nowadays, hundreds of accessories are available. One of the most popular accessories is the hands-free, where one wears small headphones and a small microphone in which to talk to. The Bluetooth, wireless hands-free is also available which allows wireless communication. There are also cases available in which one can put in his phone to protect it. One innovative accessory is the Bluetooth-driven CAR-100 from Sony Ericsson where a small car is controlled via Bluetooth in your phone.

Built-in Camera

One increasingly popular feature now found in many cell phones is a camera. Cameras in mobile phones were introduced about five years ago and since then a camera in a phone was the coolest feature one could talk about. But now, camera phones have become very common and more than 15% of mobile phone owners own one. Camera quality varies quite a lot with cameras ranging from CIF (352x288) to two megapixels (1632x1224). However, these cameras cannot be compared with ordinary digital cameras which can take photos at more than 15 megapixels. Also, some mobiles also have the ability to record video. So, no matter wherever you are, you can always store the great moments of your life in your phone and what’s good is, you can share them with others!


After mentioning cameras, one must talk about the size and quality of the screen of a cell phone. Nowadays, almost all mobiles phones sport multi-colored screens. These screens, depending on their quality can display up to 262,144 unique colors. One advantage of having high quality screens is images taken with cameras are displayed with better quality and colors. There are also different screen sizes (in pixels): 128x96, 128x128, 128x160, 176x220 and 240x320 are the most common ones. The more the resolution, the more the pixels and the more the quality and detail of the image displayed.

Entertainment Features

For some people (like me!), mobile phones have become great entertainment devices. This is due to the great number of features offered by this generation’s mobile phone. Many features of this kind have been incorporated into today’s mobile phones such as a fully-functional MP3 and video player, support for great 3D games and a nice radio. These things will never let one get bored. Games, for example, can be downloaded and there is an abundant collection of mobile games available on the Internet and of course the radio, which offers something new every time.


One common thing now found in many cellular phones is an infrared port. This infrared port allows wireless communication and data transfer between devices with infrared ports. This means that data can be transferred between two infrared capable cell phones and if an infrared port is attached to a computer, data can easily be transferred between the PC and the phone. One drawback of using infrared to transfer data is that the devices have to be placed close together, their infrared ports facing each other. However, this method of transfer, although slow, is more reliable and secure.


Another method of data transfer is Bluetooth. Bluetooth wireless technology is now being found increasingly in newer mobile phones due to its ever increasing cheapness. Bluetooth is now very popular and is being used in the trendy Bluetooth hands-frees. It has a major advantage over infrared communication as it has at least ten meters of range, which means that the devices do not have to be placed that close as in infrared. Moreover, Bluetooth is much, much faster than infrared, another great advantage. However, unlike infrared, Bluetooth can be very insecure and vulnerable.


One popular service now provided by many cellular companies and also found in many cell phones is the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). This technology enables, using WAP, connect to the internet, browse WAP sites and also send emails. GPRS allows the traveling businessman to connect to the internet in his laptop through his mobile. Another service used in collaboration with this is the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). By using it, one can send photos, sounds and even video clips! The messages are sent through the GPRS of the phone.


Another “in style” thing in mobile phones is 3G. “3G” is the third generation technology and this enables the mobile user to stream video to another phone by calling it. Basically, it’s a video call.


Now, let’s come to the different mobile phone manufacturers. Nowadays, Nokia is the market leader and is selling the highest number of phones in a year. Nokia is also considered the most reliable mobile brand in the world and also the most expensive one. After Nokia, the world’s second best-selling brand is Motorola, who seem to have lost their touch when it comes to marketing and strategy. Sony Ericsson and Samsung are challenging Nokia’s lead by presenting affordable and somewhat reliable mobile solutions.
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